By Goda Perakadoru –
Chandima Weerakkody, Deputy Speaker, has been projecting himself as a constitutional expert in the last few weeks, no doubt to be in the good books of the Mahinda Rajapakse regime. Weerakkody was earlier a staunch supporter of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. He was the person who was behind initiating contempt proceedings against S.B. Dissanayake at the instance of President Kumaratunga. The offending speech by Dissanayake was made at a Vap Magul Ceremony held at Habaraduwa. Weerakkody was the Sri Lanka Freedom Party organizer of Habaraduwa and was instrumental in getting three of his supporters to complain to the Supreme Court against Dissanayake. After Rajapakse became President, Weerakkody has taken great pains to erase his pro-Chandrika image.
Weerakkody was one of the first to comment on the decision of the Supreme Court in regard to impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. He has stated that Article 107 (3) of the Constitution permits Parliament to provide either by law or Standing Orders for all matters relating to the impeachment of a superior court judge.
Mahinda, Chandima and Susil
Article 107 (3) is as follows: “Parliament shall by law or by Standing Orders provide for all matters relating to the presentation of such an address, including the procedure for the passing of a such resolution, the investigation and proof of the alleged misbehaviour or incapacity and the right of such Judge to appear and to be heard in person or by representative.”
According to Weerakkody, Parliament is free to provide for all matters relating to the impeachment either by law or Standing Orders and it has opted to use Standing Orders. This is the very question that arose before the Supreme Court. The Court has held that while matters relating to the presentation of an impeachment motion and the passing of a resolution for impeachment can be stipulated by Standing Orders, the conferring of legal powers on a body to make a finding or a decision affecting the rights of a person can only be done by a law of Parliament. It has emphasized that Standing Orders are not ‘law.’
The Court stated as follows: “A Parliamentary Select committee appointed in terms of Standing Order 78A derives its power and authority solely from the said Standing order which is not a law. Therefore a Select Committee appointed under and in terms of Standing Order 78A has no legal power or authority to make a finding adversely affecting the legal rights of a Judge against whom the allegations made in the resolution moved under proviso to Article 107 (2), is the subject matter of the investigation. The power to make a valid finding after investigation contemplated in Article 107 (3) can be conferred on a court, tribunal or a body, only by law and by law alone.” (Underlining by the Court).
The Court further stated: “Matters relating to the presentation of an address and the procedure for the passing of such resolution are matters which can be stipulated by Standing orders but there is nothing to prevent Parliament from providing for such matters by law as well.”
Weerakkody, the new constitutional expert, should have first read the decision of the Supreme Court before commenting on it. In fact, he told the media that he has not seen the judgment.